Monday, December 15, 2008

Our Weil-McLain Boiler Failure, Attracting Flies

The good news is the heat is back! To be sure, it'll be a while before I take hot water, taking a shower and a warm house for granted. Bad boilers aside, we've also been reminded of how fabulous having radiant heat really is, and of how we just can't imagine ever living in a house without it. Kudos and at least a B+ to the contractor for coming out on a Saturday to do the repair after waiting all week for the part.

The ugly facts about Weil-McLain's service on our "issue" and my previous post seems to have attracted the flies. If you've Googled "Weil-McLain failure" or "Weil-McLain review" and read what you dig up, perhaps you've noticed that any time a negative review appears, they're always followed by a "I'm xyz contractor, I have xyz experience, these boilers are great, the service is great, it's the contractors fault" and my personal favorite: "xyz boiler only fails because of improper installation." Taken at face value, it's the (now) expected buck-passing blame game and the status quo attempt to maintain all things plumbing and HVAC as some kind of dark, forbidding art. But look closely. In the case of these contrary, glowing reviews on behalf of Weil-McLain, THEY'RE ALL WRITTEN BY THE SAME PERSON!
Somehow, that just sits a little wrong with me, but of course I'll leave you to form your own opinion on that.

Anyway, here's Modern in MN's own personal version of the oft-repeated diatribe from said person, Morgan Audetat of Badger Boiler Service:
"It's all about the support network. I am a certified contractor for several high efficiency boilers including Weil-McLain's Ultra and HTP's Munchkin. I have received excellent service from their products, their reps and their factory support.

"It's all about the contractor. He is responsible for bringing in the required resources to fix your problem."

"I recently received a next day HX from WM and last year replaced a boiler for them 'same day'."

"Both boilers suffered from improper installation."

"Finally I wonder who designed and installed your system and why they don't seem to be in the picture now? And was the unit serviced annually-per the installation/users manual?"
Hi Morgan. Gosh, you found us fast! Either you and "Badger Boiler Service" are located in a cooling-only state or business is slow, because you seem to have a lot of time on your hands to spend scouring the internet for negative content about the products I presume you make money from. From what I can tell, my post doesn't even show up on a Google search yet and I've only posted reviews on small and unimportant websites so far...

But to respond to your comments, first, you said:

"It's all about the support network."

I couldn't agree with this more. Unfortunately, the biggest player in this support network. i.e. Weil-McLain, didn't or doesn't feel the need to participate in their game, as illustrated by the fact that THEY DID NOT HAVE PARTS AVAILABLE FOR THEIR PRODUCT AT THEIR FACILITY OR ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE COUNTRY....during heating season....for a product they're still selling.

Next, you said:

"It's all about the contractor. He is responsible for bringing in the required resources to fix your problem."

So you've already changed your mind on who it's all about and now we're on to passing the buck, huh? Your industry seems to excel at buck passing, or more specifically, buck avoiding, to the point that it makes me wonder if it's actually a course in HVAC tech school. You sound just like Mike Peck, the WM rep who couldn't be bothered to call us back for a day and a half, did so only after numerous phone calls and an exchange of unpleasant words with his assistant, and then couldn't tell me enough times that "it wasn't WM's fault, there was nothing he could do, I needed to talk to the contractor about this", and that he "has no control over what the contractor does or how long they take". Oh, and that I didn't need to "yell at" him.
Ohkeey Dokeey Mikey. Sorry about that getting cranky part, but not having heat or hot water for a week in the middle of winter will do that to a girl, and you sort of tried to slime the wrong person with your complete bullshit faux helpfulness. Here's a hint: next time, don't try to sell something the customer did that should have been your job as something you did for her. It makes us mad and makes you look like a sleazy, lazy, incompetent ass.
I'm just sayin.
So yea, if the part the contractor needed to fix our boiler EXISTED WHEN WE NEEDED IT, I'd agree, but in this case, the contractor was UNABLE TO BRING IN THE REQUIRED PART in a timely manner, BECAUSE WEIL-MCLAIN DIDN'T SEE FIT TO HAVE THOSE PARTS AVAILABLE. Furthermore, even after this fact was brought to the attention of Weil-McLain, they didn't see fit to find a suitable work around, i.e. replacing the boiler entirely or pulling the part from one of the two Ultra boilers on hand in the state, a solution which would have solved the problem in one day (yep, my know, the one Mike Peck then tried to pitch to me as his great help after he finally got around to returning our calls?). Instead, they chose to ignore and/or deny the fact that their parts inavailabilty was leaving us with out heat or hot water for a week in the middle of winter. They could have cared less. What wasn't in short supply, however, was the endless stream of slow or returned not at all phone calls and "it's not our fault, we're the greatest, you have to deal with the contractor" from Weil-McLain.

You said:
"I recently received a next day HX from WM and last year replaced a boiler for them 'same day'."
"Both boilers suffered from improper installation."

Which I think begs the question: What is the heat exchanger failure rate on WM Ultra boilers?

Anyway, good to know that whatever relationship you have with WM gets you the parts fast! No wonder you want to spend time searching out and refuting every negative review. Looks like you've got pretty extensive industry ties. Hopefully those relationships serve you as well as you serve them.
So If you're a contractor and I had called you for this repair (you should really consider taking out an ad in the yellow pages, btw) and you couldn't get the part for six days who would you be blaming? Just curious.
Maybe you should share your magical wholesale source with the rest of your industry, because Ferguson and their 'accountable to no one' model could really use some competition. I place at least a little of blame for not having a part with them, but as I said, they're accountable to no one so why should they bother?

And as far as improper installation goes, yea, I've heard that one before....from you, in your repetitive posts on review websites. Maybe it would be useful if you could tell us how many Weil-McLain Ultra boilers you've had to repair or replace that were installed according to spec. I'd also be curious to know the stats on how many failures there's been on systems that included domestic hot water heating via an indirect water heater? Or maybe that's revealing too much. Or maybe WM's install spec is neglectful or incompatible with their product design and the price I get to pay for having a properly installed system is a cracked heat exchanger every few years.

What was improper was choosing to have a Weil-McLain product in my home at all because in the end a product is only as good as it's service and above all, after four solid days of numerous, unproductive phone calls to them, what is overwhelmingly clear to us is that Weil-McLain can't be bothered with customer service and has absolutely zero interest in after-sales support. They're like OZ, spending all their time and resources cultivating an image that is, based on my experience, a complete and utter farce and then deluding themselves into believing their lie, all at the expense of their product and their customer.

I think the punch line to this story has yet to be delivered. As I've said, our boiler is three years old and as such is supposed to be fully covered under a 5 year "Homeowner Protection Plan", a 5 year all-inclusive warranty from Weil-McLain, administered by TAW, Inc. This means that the $700 or so we paid in labor for this repair, not counting the cost of the part which we had to pay for up front and, in theory, are waiting to be reimbursed for, would be covered by warranty as well. All in all, another stellar example of buck passing but where it gets really hinkey is that the contractor has to submit the claim for us, and when we mentioned this to the tech he just laughed....
I'll keep you posted.


Anonymous Ben said...

You go girl!!

7:48 PM  
Anonymous schu said...

Incredible story. I will definitely remember Weil McLain.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

I'm not a contractor, just someone who has had this blog's feed in my Google Reader for quite a while now because I'm interested in modern design.

I know you're angry because you were out your heat and because you didn't get X you wanted from Y who you specifically wanted it from within Z time period you wanted it in. (This is America, we have the right to demand diamond-encrusted Winnebagos if we so desire. :) )

But I don't see it being the manufacturer's problem.

The installer should be the repairer.

It's not "passing the buck," it's what makes common sense.

Yes, you wouldn't expect Wal-Mart to repair a TV you bought there. But you don't pay Wal-Mart to come out and assemble the TV from its component pieces, cut a wall opening to flush-fit it, run the cables through your walls, and conduct a battery of tests to ensure the color balance and brightness match your room lighting.

And for another example, my GE appliances all have in-home repair warranties. Parts and labor free. Does the guy who shows up wear a GE badge? No, he works for a local contracted appliance repair shop.

I get the feeling there's something left out here, like a DIY install of the equipment or a falling-out with the contractor, etc. If so, do fill us in.

12:35 PM  
Blogger splatgirl said...

Hi Michael. Thanks for your perspective.
You said:
"The installer should be the repairer."

And as I said, the installer/repairer gets high marks for doing their job as promptly as possible. Why "promptly" took six days was entirely due to the fact that the manufacturer didn't have the parts needed for our repair. I just don't see how that's not the manufacturer's fault.

"my GE appliances all have in-home repair warranties. Parts and labor free. Does the guy who shows up wear a GE badge? No, he works for a local contracted appliance repair shop."

My circumstances exactly. So if the contracted appliance repair shop can't perform your repair because the manufacturer doesn't have the part available, you'd blame the shop? Huh.

you said:
"I get the feeling there's something left out here, like a DIY install of the equipment or a falling-out with the contractor, etc. If so, do fill us in."

The implication being that different circumstances, i.e. a different contractor or installer would have changed the fact that the part wasn't available and took six days to make/ship? My understanding of the situation, as communicated to me via our Weil-McLain authorized contractor and then via the WM rep directly, is that the part did not exist anywhere in the country, hence, the delay while the factory made one. That seems pretty cut and dried to me.

1:22 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

"So if the contracted appliance repair shop can't perform your repair because the manufacturer doesn't have the part available, you'd blame the shop? Huh."

I think you've identified the issue right there: you're looking for blame; someone to be "responsible" for your suffering. Someone should pay for that, right? :)

Well, sometimes the part just isn't in. You could just as easily blame nature for making it cold outside. And it would do just as much good. The best customer service rep in the world can't make a boiler magically appear.

If they could, and did, make you the part and send it to you as they were able to, they held up their part of the bargain.

There is a lot of bad customer service in the world nowadays, but don't confuse that with simply being told something you didn't want to hear.

Cheers and happy holidays.

2:26 AM  
Blogger splatgirl said...

The bottom line is that I think it's irresponsible for supposedly reputable company that manufacturers and sells heating products not to have parts in ready supply in heating season. I'm not confusing that with bad customer service...that was a separate issue and one that certainly didn't help.
Reimbursement for the cost of the repair as covered under the product warranty is the only payment I expect.

The is blog is, as it has always been, about sharing our experience.

9:03 AM  
Blogger funkphenomenon said...

LOVED your ofuro. Would you be willing to part with the plans for your tub? My husband and I found your site and it is the ONLY one we have seen with good pictures?

8:13 PM  
Blogger alicia said...

Splatgirl, I completely agree. They should be spending more effort on support and less on sneaky propaganda. Upon finding no part available, they should have immediately authorized replacement of the whole unit. I hope enough contractors left holding the bag will eventually add up and you'll see a lack of willingness to install, service, or even become certified for these products.

We are in the market for a new system, and I know what I won't be buying!

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My Mom had a Weil-McLain boiler and fortunately we moved to FL so she wouldn't have to continue paying for repairs on the POS. My uncle has the same boiler, ongoing and continuing problems.

Both my uncle and my Mom know well what it's like to not have heat in the dead of winter, thanks to Weil-McLain.

You stay on them girl!

5:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having sold Weil Mclain products, and parts for 10 years, I am surprised about the availability you expeirienced. Just out of curiosity, what part were you needing?
FYI, it is the responsibility of the distributor (Ferguson) to stock the parts in a ready manner. It has been our expierience that Ferguson does a poor job of stocking parts.
Sorry for you troubles.

1:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 15 year old Well McClain boilers. One winter weekend with the temperature outside below zero, one of the boiler hot surface ignitors failed. The dealer that installed the boiler charged me $180 for a service call plus $225 installation fee for a $15 part. When i told other people about the charges, they could not believe that I was over charged that much.

I now buy the part and install it myself. Because the hot surface ignitors on this model fail regularly and always on a weekend night.

Well Mcclain did a factory authorized down grade of the efficiency of the boilers because of reliability problems.

There is a local boiler dealer that refuses to install Well McClain because of reliability and service issues.

Mike in MN

7:46 PM  
Blogger SeanG said...

Thanks for your sharing your experiences!

2:18 PM  
Blogger K Nutter said...

Hey splatgirl,
No doubt you are totally on the mark here. It appears from his post that Michael here has no experience in the design or construction industry, of which I know you and I both do. When contacting a manufacturer for a part, to be told that one does not exist and will need to be made? For a product still in production? Come on. Hell yes, the consumer has a right to BLAME someone when the product that was purchased based on the company's written propaganda fails miserably in such a short time. There's federal laws out there protecting consumers from that very situation - it's called a Lemon Law, and too bad it only applies to the Auto industry, huh? I am fortunately in the position where I make my living designing and specifying products for new construction homes, and it's easy for me to simply tell the manufacturer that I won't be spec'ing their products anymore. Thanks for your insight and best wishes in getting that reimbursement. Keep good records - with dates and details, and don't rule out litigation. It's funny what a letter from an attourney can do to a sales rep. You may just see a 180-degree turn around!

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Boiler Service said...

Thank you for posting such a useful, impressive and a wicked article.

We are with you, and wish you all the best in your endeavour to serve mankind.

10:01 PM  
Anonymous gas safety london said...

many thanks for sharing this, cheers

3:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a nice warm Montana day I am having exactly the same experience. I work and travel out of town my WM boiler has shut of 5+ times in the last few weeks. I have had three different "qualified" people come and look at my system. I am not having trouble getting parts it just how many I am going to have to buy. Every code is a new part every restart is a new set of headaches. My WM Ultra is only 5 years old if this is all the longer they last them they need to really drop the price. I am going back to wood. WM makes bad products expensive parts and create many issues. I dont see how you can defend a product that does not work or work for very long. As I have seen on this blog and experienced the finger pointing is epic consumer affairs should step in and yes there is an expectation when you spend your money that something will work.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does WM stay in business? We paid thousands of dollars for a new boiler and it is a POS! We have had nothing but trouble, it shuts of and 'locks out' in the coldest weather. We were induced to buy it by being told we could see up to 40% savings on our gas bill. Guess what? We have had a big fat ZERO reduction in the CF usage. The worst part is that our old boiler was not bad, just needed a new pump.

I won't use up time to go into all the sad details, I'll just say that this WM boiler was the biggest mistake we have ever made.

Don't listen to all the excuses from the people who have whatever motives for supporting WM. READ THE CONSUMER COMPLAINTS!!


11:02 AM  

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